Motoette -in forward motion

Ethanol Fuel; A bio friend or foe?

 Recently, I was reading about a serious and potentially dangerous problem with Ducati’s North American motorcycle polycarbonate (or plastic) fuel tanks and it grabbed my attention. Since 2005 US Ducati owners have been dealing with deformities with their fuel tanks due to a 10% addition of ethanol into US gasoline.

What was interesting to me first off was how a minimum level of ethanol added to our fossil fuel to help control our growing greenhouse gas emissions was the cause of a substantial number of Ducati NA polycarbonate fuel tanks to morph right off their front mounting pegs. This growing problem seems to be infiltrating mainly Multistradas, Sport GT’s, Monsters and other similar models in the Ducati NA line-up of motorcycles. I have also heard stories that Aprilia and Triumph have also been affected as well.

I remember reading several months ago about the US EPA wanting to increase the percentage of ethanol in gasoline from 10% to 15%, which really got me thinking about how ethanol could have the potential to cause significant problems in the motorcycle industry as a whole. Not just with Ducati, but on a grander scale.

Next to Brazil, the US has been one of the largest producers of ethanol for the last 6 years and now in the last few years it is spreading into Europe thanks to the European Union. For example; England has been integrating 5% ethanol into their fuel supplies, and at the end of 2010 the Canadian Government recently enforced the identical policy onto its residents.

The obvious question here is how does a revolutionary renewable fuel cause such destruction in small engines?

Ethanol is primarily a corn-based fuel source that acts like a solvent and deteriorates fuel system components such as plastic lined gas tanks and rubber fuel lines. Ethanol wicks moisture from the air and gravity causes the water to weigh down the ethanol, separating it from the gasoline. This formulates a “pool” of water at the bottom of the tank, which is then absorbed by the nylon surface of the polycarbonate tank.

This separation occurs when a tank containing fuel sits anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks without starting the engine. This occurrence is especially profound in dramatic swings in temperature and climates with high humidity levels.

Ethanol was introduced by the US Renewable Fuel Standard as an alternative resource to our dwindling fossil fuel supply and to reduce the dependency on foreign petroleum. Even though the act was implemented in 2005, ethanol has been used a source of energy for over 200 years.

While Ducati owners are currently working with their bikes manufacture to fix the problematic tanks, there are few things to consider more globally.

Is this an isolated situation? While automobiles seem to be immune, small engines and ethanol do not work well together. Not only does ethanol deteriorate motorcycle plastic and rubberized parts but other small motorized engines as well.

Does ethanol, in fact, honestly make an improvement to our planets greenhouse gas emissions dilemma? Being that ethanol is a plant or animal waste based alcohol, it first requires petroleum to harvest and has to be coal or gas-fired to be distilled. The other point of issue is that it takes up valuable farmland and drives up foods costs by lessening our food supplies.  This is the controversy that exists amongst most consumers of today. Why are we manufacturing a questionable renewable fuel source that removes food off our plates and requires petroleum to create?

Finally, how do we, as consumers, deal with a growing International mandate that could ultimately incite avoidable mechanical issues?

1. You can start off by writing to your locally appointed official and express your concern.

2. Keep your tank filled to avoid condensation and add a fuel stabilizer. Also purchase high-octane fuel. The higher the octane the lower percentage of ethanol.

3. Don’t let your bike sit for too long. Even if you don’t ride, fire her up every 3 to 8 weeks to avoid the occurring chemical separation. If you winterize your motorcycle, then make sure to drain all fuel before storing.

4. While Ducati NA is replacing deformed tanks, they still have not solved the problem. If you are a Ducati owner now replacing your second or third swelling tank, there are several products on the market you can buy to seal your tank. One well-known product is called Phenol Novolac Epoxy Gas Tank Sealer. There has been a lot of success with this product, but be aware that once you alter the tank in any way, the warranty is null and void.  

5. Most important, create awareness. Don’t hesitate to get on your favorite motorcycle forum and start a chat session about this subject matter. Don’t be fooled, you can make a difference just by talking about it.

January 13, 2011 - Posted by | Ducati, EPA, ethanol, girlracer, motorcycles, national renewable fuel standard, polycarbonate fuel tanks


  1. Why are you trying to adapt to a problem that should never have happened? There is no federal mandatory E10 law in the U.S. There are only five states with active mandatory E10 laws and every one of them includes an exception for small engines like all of those used in motorcycles. The reason that all of the gasoline in the U.S. is going E10 is because of the unintended consequences of the federal RFS mandate in EISA 2007 that was supposed to be a corporate welfare act for E85 which is the only “Renewable” fuel defined in the act. E10 is NOT “Renewable” fuel and is never mentioned in the act. If you want to understand the problem: If you want to fight the problem write the EPA administrator and ask her to prohibit the blending of ethanol in all premium unleaded gasoline which she can do. Sign our petition to do just that: Stop trying to work around a problem that never should have happened, fight back.

    Comment by stopethanol | January 15, 2011 | Reply

    • I appreciate your comments and whole heartily encourage a debate on this controversial topic. My goal in writing this piece was to create awareness and present it in an unbiased format to encourage riders and non-riders alike to speak out publicly about it. So, thank you for starting it off!

      Comment by motoette | January 16, 2011 | Reply

  2. Food for fuel?? lol That’s our Govt. for ya. It takes more energy to make this crap than it saves..

    Comment by Edwardelhenterprise | August 20, 2011 | Reply

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